A couple of years ago, Alex Wilcox was on a business trip when he encountered a family with a child on the autism spectrum. The child was so distraught by the sights, sounds and overall airport experience that it was impossible for the family to board the plane. As co-founder and CEO of airline JetSuiteX, Wilcox felt he could do something about it.
“After that encounter, Alex was dedicated to build on our existing strengths by empowering our crewmembers to better serve autistic people and their families, furthering our mission of offering a simple, joyful and reliable air travel experience to all of our customers,” says Angela Vargo, vice president of marketing for the airline.
The resulting JetSuiteX Autism Awarness initiative builds on the airline’s unique amenities. JetSuiteX operates 30-seat aircraft out of private terminals, so passengers are able to bypass crowds and long lines at security (while still enjoying screening that meets and exceeds TSA standards) and board just 20 minutes before departure. At 36 inches, leg room inside its planes is comparable to business-class seating on domestic airlines, and fares are competitive with commercial airlines as well, beginning at $79 each way. JetSuiteX, which began operating in 2016, currently serves Burbank, Orange County, Las Vegas, Concord, Oakland and Seattle, with service to Phoenix scheduled to begin in late August. Seasonal flights to Coachella Valley and Mammoth are also available.
For its Autism Awareness initiative, JetSuiteX partnered with Autism Double-Checked, an organization founded by travel-industry professionals and dedicated to creating a safe and enjoyable space for those on the autism spectrum and their families when they travel away from home. The organization awarded Autism Double-Checked certification to JetSuiteX in April.
In order to attain the certification, all staff – from pilots to flight attendants and customer service agents – underwent training so that they are better able to assist passengers with autism. The airline also worked with Autism Double-Checked to create a passenger guide for those flying with passengers who have autism.
Among other things, the guide alerts passengers to issues of safety, crowds, waiting, noise, body awareness, heat or cold, light, taste or smell, fine-motor issues and surprise elements they might encounter at the various airports JetSuiteX serves, or on its flights.
“Autism Double-Checked, was founded by accomplished travel professionals and parents of children with special needs,” says Vargo. “They brought a deep understanding of both travel industry logistics and the difficulties faced by families of individuals on the autism spectrum when traveling, which was so important in developing our training program.”
Learn more at jetsuitex.com.